Documenting and responding to species invasions requires innovative strategies that account for ecological and societal complexities. We used the recent expansion of Indo-Pacific lionfish (Pterois volitans/miles) throughout northern Gulf of Mexico coastal waters to evaluate the role of stakeholders in documenting and responding to a rapid marine invasion. We coupled an online survey of spearfishers and citizen science monitoring programs with traditional fishery-independent data sources and found that citizen observations documented lionfish 1–2 years earlier and more frequently than traditional reef fish monitoring programs. Citizen observations first documented lionfish in 2010 followed by rapid expansion and proliferation in 2011 (+367%). From the survey of spearfishers, we determined that diving experience and personal observations of lionfish strongly influenced perceived impacts, and these perceptions were powerful predictors of support for initiatives. Our study demonstrates the value of engaging citizens for assessing and responding to large-scale and time-sensitive conservation problems.
Marine and Environmental Sciences
Recommended publisher citation: Scyphers, S.B., Powers, S.P., Akins, J.L., Drymon, J.M., Martin, C.W., Schobernd, Z.H., Schofield, P.J., Shipp, R.L. and Switzer, T.S. (2015), The Role of Citizens in Detecting and Responding to a Rapid Marine Invasion. Conservation Letters, 8: 242-250. https://doi.org/10.1111/conl.12127
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